Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category
Its been taking me forever to get this book review out. Its been on my mind for days but for some reason writing something is always quite a bit more difficult for me than drawing something. You would figure that after getting a degree in political science that it would come easier to me but you’d be wrong. Maybe my next book review should come in the form of a doodle.
Anyways, today class, we will be discussing The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. I actually had no idea that it was a book until I heard the author being interviewed when the movie came out. He was being interviewed on my favourite podcast ever, and since those guys were so taken by the book (and less so by the movie), I figured I should probably read this thing.
So lets begin. The book is sold as an entertaining look at the crazy US government’s secret attempts to integrate psychics and other aspects of paranormal new age crap into modern warfare. And that’s basically how the book started off, somewhat light-hearted, describing the attempts of one general to walk through walls and various soldiers attempting to kill goats with their minds. Funny and weird for sure. But as I read on, I felt more and more disturbed by what I was reading.
In Ronson’s journey to uncover these strange projects of the US military, he begins to unwind the not so funny current military practices. It becomes clear that ideas that arose from the psyops division in the 1980s become contorted and fucked up with the passage of time and some unholy version of it was then put into practice in the present-day war on terror in Iraq. I mean, for all the crap that the whole new age mentality brought to ideas on how to fight a war, it also brought in the idea of non lethal weapons, and non violent warfare. These men may have been diluted to think that they could kill people with their minds but the mind frame that lead them to believe they could do that also created a philosophy which spoke of understanding the culture and the people of the land in which they were fighting. Essentially, winning the war by only winning the hearts and minds of the civilians and creating a world where politics would be in harmony with the earth. Yet, what came out of it was bizarre interrogation techniques which can only be described as psychological torture coupled with massive human rights violations by the most powerful military on earth. It was the horrible mutant child of the military’s hippy new age psyops division.
I went into this book thinking that I would read about a failed government initiative whose ideas were long dead but I was horrified to find that I was reading the twisted adventure of the military in Iraq. I left the book feeling somewhat disturbed by what I read and I’m not sure if that was Ronson’s intent. Did I miss his point?
Anyways, the final verdict is that Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats was one damn good book. Definitely a must read. I’ll be sure to post my impressions of the movie once I get around to seeing it.
So this is the very first book I am reviewing on my website so forgive me if it sounds a little clumsy.
Well, let’s get at it. Basically, this book sucked. I mean royally sucked and I’m not going to lie, I feel really disappointed. It’s rare that I read a nonfiction book that I don’t like and I had such high hopes for this one, but here we are.
Okay, so the The Luck Factor is written by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the UK. The book is written from material derived through long term studies of lucky and unlucky people. By analysing the thinking and behaviour patterns of people self described as “lucky”, “unlucky”, or “neutral” Wiseman finds several characteristics common amongst his “lucky” subjects. From there we get four overarching principles of luck and12 sub-principles which you, the reader, could adopt in your own life to become a luckier person.
While I like the idea of taking a look at the psychology behind luck and extrapolating from that ways to become luckier, I just didn’t find this book particularly interesting. The majority of the book is direct quotations from the test subjects describing their lucky or unlucky lives. The whole book read like a badly written homework assignment. Actually, it very much reminded me of the many crappy essays I’ve handed in during my undergrad where I was simply too lazy to do any more research and decided to quote paragraphs from other articles in an attempt to up my word count.
Beyond the writing style of the author, the actual material wasn’t too revolutionary either. To become a luckier person essentially requires being open to new experiences, thinking positively, and listening to your gut. I can’t help but think that this whole book could be summed up in a twitter post without losing any sort of actual content. What’s more is that there were plenty of times in the book where events which were completely outside of human control (for instance, one subject was on a plane that was struck by lightning) were lumped in with events in which the participants made some sort of choice (for instance, if the subject was in a series of bad relationships). I fail to see how being positive and open to new experiences could stop totally random unfortunate events from occurring.
One thing I just have to highlight is his view of several particularly “unlucky” female subjects who found themselves in horribly abusive relationships throughout the course of their lives. I don’t know if it’s just me but it seems incredibly wrong equating domestic violence with being “unlucky in love” with the take home message being that if only these women listened to their intuition this would have never happened. Seriously, WTF!
Overall, I would give this book an F. Not worth skimming and definitely not worth reading. I’m sorry Richard Wiseman, I love your blog but this book was terrible.